A New York Times analysis found no identifiable tuna DNA in Subway’s tuna sandwich, the newspaper reported over the weekend, citing tests conducted by a commercial lab.
The Times bought 60 inches of Subway tuna sandwiches from three different Subway locations in Los Angeles.
A reporter for the newspaper then removed and froze the tuna and sent it to an unidentified commercial food testing lab. The newspaper said it paid roughly $500 for the lab to conduct a PCR test to see if the substance had one of five different tuna species.
After a month, the lab said it found “no amplifiable tuna DNA was present in the sample and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA.”
“Therefore, we cannot identify the species,” the lab said.
Elaborating on the results, a spokesperson for the lab told the Times that there were two different conclusions.
“One, it’s so heavily processed that whatever we could pull out, we couldn’t make an identification,” the spokesperson said. “Or we got some and there’s just nothing there that’s tuna.”
In a statement to The Hill, Subway said that the test result "indicates that DNA testing is an unreliable methodology for identifying processed tuna."
"DNA testing is simply not a reliable way to identify denatured proteins, like Subway’s tuna, which was cooked before it was tested," the company said. "The fact is Subway restaurants serve 100% wild-caught, cooked tuna, which is mixed with mayonnaise and used in freshly made sandwiches, wraps and salads that are served to and enjoyed by our guests. The taste and quality of our tuna make it one of Subway's most popular products and these baseless accusations threaten to damage our franchisees, small business owners who work tirelessly to uphold the high standards that Subway sets for all of its products, including its tuna.
The Times noted that the Food and Drug Administration identifies 15 species of nomadic saltwater fish that can be labeled “tuna.”
The test comes as Subway faces a class-action lawsuit alleging that its tuna sandwich is not actually made of tuna. The suit was first filed in a California federal court in January.
In an amended complaint dated June 7, the plaintiffs allege that Subway claims to sell sustainably caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna but was instead selling “anything less than healthy stocks.”
Subway has been “selling and continuing to sell some mixture that is deceptively and dishonestly being passed off as in line with their representations to purchasers but are not actually compliant,” the suit states.
Commenting on the lawsuit, Subway said the claims were "untrue and have absolutely no merit."
"Given the facts, the lawsuit constitutes a reckless and improper attack on Subway's brand and goodwill, and on the livelihood of its franchisee," the company said.
Inside Edition did its own test of the tuna sandwich in February, in which it had a Florida-based lab test sandwiches from three Subway locations in New York. That test confirmed that tuna was in the sandwiches.
--Updated at 11:58 a.m.